Delaware County Daily Times: Delco Legislators Meet at Local Pre-k to Talk about Early Education
May 31, 2018 by Kathleen Carey
CLIFTON HEIGHTS >> Delco legislators were told to spend money now or they’ll spending five times as much later in trying to keep communities safe through educational investment and crime prevention.
Delaware County Katayoun Copeland joined “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” at the Today’s Child Learning Center to talk about how early childhood funding could stem criminal activity through the Pre-K Counts program and others targeted to low-income families.
“We know, and just historically, we can’t arrest our way out of committing crimes,” Copeland said. “The (state) Department of Corrections did a report that almost 40 percent of all incoming state prison inmates have less than a 12th-grade education … and an average reading level of those inmates is about eighth grade.”
The district attorney cited a January 2018 report that identified difficulty reading in elementary school as an indicator of future criminal activity.
Among those in attendance was state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, who told about a discussion Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel had with the state House Appropriations Committee.
“Given the cost of high quality pre-K and the cost of someone in our state correctional system, we could be putting five kids in high-quality pre-K for every person we are paying for in the correctional system,” she said.
Darby Township Police Chief Regina Price said the state spends $3.2 billion annually, or more than $43,000 per state prison inmate, on incarcerating adults.
Comparatively, the education advocates said, the Pre-K Counts program costs $8,500 per student.
Copeland said early education has impact.
“After they left preschool, you see the difference,” she said, adding that there is a correlation between high quality early education and better performance in school, smaller numbers of school suspensions and expulsions, fewer behavioral problems and a decrease in crime.
However, Copeland added, “Only 39 percent of children eligible for publicly funded pre-K are served, leaving more than 106,000 3- and 4-year-olds without that access.”
According to Bruce R. Clash, state director of “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids,” the percentage is higher here.
“In Delaware County, that percentage of unmet need is higher than the state average – 70 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds who qualify do not have access,” he said.
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